Monday, June 5, 2017

Mont Ventoux 2017

Result: 91 km course – 45th/88 in age cat (50 to 59) – age (58) –188th/312 General Classification - 5hrs 0mins 40 secs

Diet: Ketogenic – no food on course.

Nutritional supplements: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, CoQ10, D-Ribose, Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K2, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine, Triple Boron, Potassium (chloride), Copper, GTF Chromium, Spirulina, Omega 3 EPA/DHA, Trans Resveratrol, Pterostilbene, R-Alpha Lipoic Acid, Taurine, Creatine Monohydrate, Citruline Malate, Arginine alphaketoglutarate, Branched Chain Amino Acids 4:1:1

The first bike race of each season is always intimidating due to having been off the bike all winter and endurance fitness level being very questionable – plus winter weight gain to deal with. It’s preferable to have at least 2500 km covered before the first race but as usual I’m just getting to about 1000 km by this time of the year – though nearly all of it being climbing so perhaps that’s not so bad. It’s a couple of years since last visiting Ventoux and the previous occasion involved climbing up the South side from Bedoin but today would be the more forgiving North side from Malaucene – though the 3km continuous stretch of 12% gradient in the middle of the 20km climb doesn’t feel very forgiving at all. 

For me preparation begins in April when the Easter holidays are over and skiing clients start to thin out. The months of April and May are always a nightmare of pushing the body to climb unwillingly back up the endurance fitness ladder. This just doesn’t happen joyfully as until fitness grows the only visible change is the stomach growing due to eating more – until after about six weeks into it all when there is enough strength to work effectively and long enough so that weight starts to drop consistently and the body is reorganized for endurance activity once again. It’s all made very much harder by combining running with cycling and trying to raise the level of both sports. Running gets significantly harder beyond a certain age though this is very effectively dealt with through constantly developing technique and awareness – along with taking nutritional supplements specifically targeting mitochondrial function.

Christiane came along to once again ride up the Ventoux independently. Due to working until 5pm on Friday this meant we couldn’t leave until after 6pm and with the motorway blocked due to an accident the drive to Beaumes de Venise would take about 5hrs 30 minutes. Arriving at our destination the priority was to locate the race registration office for registering at 7am and the start location for the race – which was all straight forward due to it all being right smack in the middle of the village along with the main car park where we would have to spend the night. Christiane having recently acquired a relatively modern estate car (Renault Megane) and me having replaced all the suspension myself I’d already worked out that it was designed by total idiots on psychotropic medication but there were still surprises to come. To sleep the bikes were taken apart and placed chain rings up on the front seats and then all the baggage stacked up around them almost up to the ceiling. The camping mattresses were inflated and we quickly settled in for our short night’s sleep when I wondered to myself if the rear doors could actually be opened from the inside. It turned out that nothing could be opened – neither windows nor doors. It even crossed out minds that in line with general modern regulatory stupidity the car was probably hermetically sealed and that we might even run out of oxygen before morning! Fortunately the plastic sheeting for covering the bikes was with us in the back so I pushed it over the chain rings through the gap between the ceiling and the bikes and then painfully over about 15 minutes squeezed my upper body through the gap and managed to reach down beneath the dashboard to insert the card key for the car – enabling the function of the electric windows. Extracting myself from this hole the window control button could be reached and then a rear window finally lowered allowing an arm to reach outside to open a door. Meanwhile during my grunting, cursing and swearing Christiane had been practicing her meditation in an effort to ignore my battle and remain calm and centered. That didn’t last too long though and I think she even added to my vocabulary by the end of it. What an absolute nightmare of modern design stupidity in the extreme. Imagine someone in a car crash stuck in the back with a car on fire!!! I can confirm that I utterly detest modern car technology and will endeavour to avoid ever owning any vehicle constructed this millennium. We slept with the window open from then on – fortunately sleep coming quickly and the night being peaceful. Provence is still a part of France where the population is mainly French and the cycling tourists from all over Europe are decent people not economic migrant yobs and welfare scroungers forcing their failed cultures upon us – so it was both quiet and safe in a relatively “Macron Stupidity Free” zone. If the French can design a car as stupid as this Renault then it surely won’t take long for their politicians to destroy what’s left of France. All the more reason for enjoying it while we can!

In the car park while preparing the bikes in the morning and eating breakfast we were next to a group of French cyclists who had arrived in a team van and they were talking openly between themselves about how they had doped up to the gills for the race and how it was impossible to be in the first 100 finishers (long course 138 km) without doping. Unfortunately this is how screwed up sport is today and it is not illegal to buy doping products over the internet where they are easily and widely available. Unfortunately people are just mentally retarded to begin with and are ruled by their pathetic little egos – needing to win or elevate themselves to ultimate, moronic, delusional “elite” classification so as to have any hope of feeling any sense of self-worth. They would rather take unreasonable risks or simply just wreck their health than fail at their pointless self-glorification mission. The guys working at their health, their learning, understanding and at beating their own false limitations are the ones who get it right – and that might mean coming in last at times but there is infinitely more value in that than any doped result. The idiot who gives up racing when winning is not possible – is just that – an idiot and a real loser. Today the brainless only have doping as an option because the only alternative is smart technology and very smart nutrition. The term “elite” is a bullshit word for “doping enough to train twice as hard as normal”.

The race itself started without the chance for any warm up. If you go for a warm up you end up right at the rear for the start which is never a good move. Initially my legs felt like lead but I hoped that would change after warming up in the race – but it never did. There simply hadn’t been enough recovery from the big Col de la Madeleine climb four days previously where I had pushed reasonably hard. Apart from momentarily spiking a heart rate of 183 bpm I didn’t manage a single sustained minute of anaerobic activity on the entire race. Somehow though I never completely lost it and even this basic level of activity seemed to work. The first 20 km before the Ventoux was on really hilly terrain and with some significant climbs that were guaranteed to filter out many of the weaker riders early on. At no point at all did I feel competitive and it was one of those days where just getting through it would be a result.

Arriving at the 20 km climb up the Ventoux from Malaucene Christiane was waiting at the side of the road taking photographs. She had left early on her own taking a direct route and was climbing the Ventoux in her own time. On this occasion I envied her and would have preferred to just be able to relax and enjoy the climb instead of pushing as hard as possible. There are just days when this level of exertion is not welcome and this was one of them – but they still make great training and developmental days. Near the middle of the climb there is a demoralising 3km stretch starting off at 12% gradient and finishing at 11% average gradient. By this time I was running low on water as it had been very hot while at low altitude. Most of the actual climb was in a cold mist but the totally sweat soaked clothing was now cold and the dehydration had already taken hold. Fortunately shortly after this tough section there was a drinks stop at 6 km from the summit – but the liquid they were dispensing had a vile and heavily diluted sports drink mix in it. I need gassy water to prevent indigestion but that’s never available on races. The previous week in training I’d vomited flat tap water straight back out almost instantly. At least the sports mix helped keep the water in. Unfortunately the now 9% average gradient involved some really steep sections that seemed to just about finish off my legs for good and the heart monitor records showed afterwards that from that pause onwards I couldn’t get my heart rate back up over the 140s – which is very low for me. In the chart below the HR is at 144 when at the summit. My diet was ketogenic and I eaten eggs in the morning and nothing during the course. There was no hunger or hypoglycemia – just no power in the legs or body left to exploit due to not being well enough recovered. The rest was just a grind to the top – which was made more bearable about 3 km from the top by popping out above the clouds.


Descending to Bedoin (when the above photos were taken apparently) is quite impressive because there are long straight sections where you can just let the brakes go and fly down. Initially this was cold  (Ventoux 1912m) but soon at lower altitudes (Beaumes de Venise 86m) it returned to boiling hot and severe sweating once again. I could keep going reasonably well but never felt like it was possible to fight for position or work with others slipstreaming etc. It really didn’t feel like a competition and I was sure that as time went on I must have been right at the end and just about last – except for those suffering catastrophic cramps and left behind at the roadside on the steeper sections of the Ventoux. I counted those people off as they were the only ones I seemed to be passing today.


For me there were no cramps and no physical issues except for a sore bottom. Before the race I’d made sure to take plenty of minerals – potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine along with a whole stack of nutrients and this seems to work. Previously I’d used sodium bicarbonate to hold back cramps but perhaps that’s just dealing with symptoms and not the underlying cause. Either way there were no cramps at all though before the end there were leg pains – which meant that I was working out at close to the limits. Getting to those limits is probably the goal of the motivation from racing – because normally it’s too hard to push yourself on your own to get there. Seeing the race as a training session this is one of the most potent ways to ramp up fitness.


After the race was over I wasn’t even interested in the results because I thought they would be really bad. Only a couple of days after the race I looked them up and was amazed to be in the middle of the age category – especially as it’s a category spanning from age 50 to 59 and at 58 I’m right at the tail end of it. On such a poor performance day that was an amazing outcome because I totally expected to be right at the bottom. Very strange! All the horrible feelings trying to recover fitness after the winter with an ever-aging body seem perhaps to not be as much in vain as imagined!


Returning to the car I called up Christiane and left her a message saying I’d drive to Malaucene and pick her up there when she got down from her own ascent (assuming she had made it) and 10 minutes later she called up from Malaucene accepting. Meeting her there it was like the start of our short holiday at last and I celebrated by breaking the ketogenic diet with an obligatory Almond Magnum ice cream.

Christiane climbing Mt Ventoux…

During the race I spotted a camp site on the outskirts of Bedoin and we decided to aim for that to try to find a place to set up camp. Unfortunately the only remaining spot was right beside the road and each time a car passed the tent was almost blown away. The noise is amazingly aggressive when you are trying to sleep so when the traditional chorus of dogs barking erupted in the small hours of the morning it was almost welcome.

Bedoin is the place to aim for in this region – full of character and life but unspoiled – a true Mecca for cycling. We found a small restaurant where there were reasonably priced menus with superb traditional cuisine that is easy to incorporate into a ketogenic diet. The chef owned the place and didn’t spoil his food with rich sauces, sugar and cheap fillers. Having set up camp we could enjoy relaxing properly for the first time since leaving Savoie. The bike museum and bike shops all over the place is like heaven for cycling geeks. Right in the middle of the meal a huge rain storm broke right above us with a torrential tropical style downpour – so everyone had to rush inside. It was the only moment of bad weather and had been accurately forecast. Meanwhile back in Savoie the weather in general was really bad and the Time Mégève race the next day (Sunday) was destined to be truly miserable and dangerous – so coming here had been an excellent choice.

Next morning we broke camp because there was no way another night was going to pass right beside that road in a tent – so after throwing everything in the car we went into town for coffees – eating pre-prepared hard boiled eggs, cheese, nuts and fermented sausage of our own before planting our bottoms on a café terrasse and enjoying the warm weather. That’s idyllic France – just sitting there with great coffee watching the world float by. Tiredness had caught up with us in general by now so a lazy morning was ideal. There was a small market where we found a large basket of organic strawberries for only 4€. Christiane wanted to move on and find another camping site but I preferred to call the one here again and see if they had better spots available now because it was important to avoid more fuss and Bedoin already seemed like a great central base for everything and such a friendly yet dynamic village. We did return there and ended up with a great spot where sleeping was no problem at all for the following two nights. 50 metres away from the road and you can’t hear it at all – the difference is amazing. All of our neighbours had dogs but they were amazingly quiet and you could only hear them eating their biscuits from time to time. The late night dog chorus was faint and didn’t reach this section of the camp. One thing striking about the camp was that there was not a single vehicle there over 10 years old. Some “mobile homes” looked more like the Sky Team busses on the Tour de France – each costing around £750,000. Now I know all those vehicles are built by the same demented robot and are potential death traps I’m happy with my little tent.

Following breakfast and setting up camp once more we decided to head off to Villes sur Auzon where there was a very spectacular gorge to explore – the Gorge de la Nesque. I’d been through it once before on the long course of the Beaumes de Venise/Ventoux race several years ago and was going too fast to appreciate the scenery so this was an opportunity to get out and properly enjoy it with Christiane. Good fortune was still with us because it turned out the be the only day of the year when the gorge is closed to traffic and reserved for cyclists alone – from 8 am to 6 pm – and with perfect weather. Christiane, knowing it wasn’t going to be a potential killer climb set off quite hard – thinking she had to do that in my presence – but I was very happy to go slowly and relax. It was good that she had a bit of a workout though because for the first time on the new bike she was starting to rediscover the joy of working the body hard. For me it was a recovery day and the chance to take photos (albeit with only the telephone) and for taking in the fresh air and sights untroubled by camper vans, cars and motorbikes.

After stopping for a coffee break at the end of the gorge I decided to push Christiane to continue on the open road to Sault to see this village. Part of the deal would be to go on a fast “departmental” road and Christiane is not too comfortable there. She was pretty reluctant but the idea was to stretch her awareness of the capabilities that we have on bikes and this worked. Returning from Sault she was pleasantly surprised with how short the distance actually seemed. The village itself was not that interesting – giving a high view over the plain leading to the gorge. There were some superb photographs mounted outside a café terrasse that I photographed to capture the artist’s name.

Photograph: Nicolas Ughetto (Sault)

Heading back to the gorge there was a reasonable climb to get to the head of the gorge so this time I attacked it flat out and was amazed to sustain this all the way to the top and for the legs to feel really good. Why were they not like that yesterday? Mystery! Christiane’s descending and bike handling confidence is rapidly improving and she is no longer at a snail’s pace when descending – though her wrist was in pain from descending the Ventoux the previous day with the brakes working overtime. Back at the start of the gorge we arrived about 30 seconds after it was re-opened to traffic – so perfect timing and another great day. This evening – after a shower and change back at the camp we just ate from our supermarket visit in the morning – good healthy food – and then went into town for coffees and a browse around the bike shops as usual.

Day 3

Another lazy morning but met with the sight of a huge Marché de Provence in Bedoin – the sort of markets that Provence is famous for. Once again we found a large basket of organic strawberries but this was complimented with something else organic – a box of roasted insects – including grubs and various other bugs. It was hard initially to put those things in the mouth but after tasting how good they were that problem vanished in a flash.

Two days on the bike were taking their toll on energy so today we decided to go for a hike not really knowing what to expect. I’d picked “Lafare” as a location to aim for with a view to accessing Les Dentelles – the spectacular geological upheaval feature where sedimentary rocks are pushed up vertically due to the African continent colliding with Europe. Initially the idea was to park in security (the bikes were stored in the car not at the camp site) and walk from Lafare but it was clear that this would involve walking on tarmac so we continued up a single track road to a view point where we could have lunch that had been purchased at the market. Interrogating a passing runner we were given a good explanation of how far to continue and where to park for hiking – being able to start out straight away on a dirt track heading into the hills. Immediately we were both confronted with legs that didn’t really want to work for walking. Thankfully years of working on ChiWalking paid off here immediately and we both automatically corrected our postures and started to engage the lower back muscles. Arriving at the base of Les Dentelles most people there were just sticking to the main trails but we found a path leading up to the cliffs. They looked quite a climb away but being hidden by the trees this issue was easily ignored. Christiane kept a good pace climbing the steep path and likewise I kept with her focusing strongly on technique and taking the load off the quadriceps. Suddenly, to my surprise we just popped out at the top where there were a couple of groups engaged in climbing the cliffs. The views were impressive and once again the Ventoux area did not disappoint.

Returning to the campsite we decided to shower and go into town. Christiane’s resolution not to have a meal evaporated and so we found ourselves in our favourite restaurant for one last time – again enjoying a delicious but healthy and well earned meal. We slept like logs and had another lazy morning in a quiet Bedoin this time as most people had already left on Monday (had been a long weekend holiday period). This left us a good clear route home with little traffic but we still chose the long cross country route instead of the motorway because with the empty roads and scenery it's so much more enjoyable and far less expensive even if slower.